Each time a state considers the possibility for recreational cannabis, various discussions take place as lawmakers and voters consider how legal cannabis might affect the economy, public health and more. From taxes to regulations, adult-use of cannabis requires a lot of planning. With its legalization, Public Health-Seattle and King County decided to observe how legalizing cannabis affects youth cannabis usage. Assessing a period more than a decade long, the public health department found that cannabis use among teens in Washington State had either stayed the same or dropped following the legalization of recreational cannabis.
Written by Myduc Ta, Lindsey Greto and Kaylin Bolt, the study emphasized the importance of tracking the relationship between legalization and underage consumption. The researchers observed children in even-numbered grades from sixth through 12th and found that even with the arrival of recreational cannabis, rates of cannabis consumption among these age groups did not increase. Being the county with the largest population in Washington State, King County serves as a representative of the 10 other states that have also legalized recreational use. “This decline or absence of change in youth marijuana use after legalization of retail sales to adults is consistent with trends reported in Colorado and Oregon,” stated in the discussion section of the report.
The report utilized information collected between the years 2004 and 2016. The Washington State Healthy Youth Survey provided the data from students in the targeted age range. Public schools were chosen randomly, but those not chosen could still opt to participate. The school-based survey inquired about students’ cannabis consumption in the past 30 days and participants kept their anonymity. Grades 6, 10 and 12 had drops in cannabis usage following legalization in 2012, while rates for grade 8 remained the same.
Percentages for 2016 were “0.6 percent among grade 6, 4.1 percent among grade 8, 13.9 percent among grade 10, and 25.5 percent among grade 12 students,” as shared in the report findings. With these results in mind the authors of the report explained that because the survey data stopped in the year 2016, the results did not include e-cigarettes, which have risen in popularity in recent years.
“However, causality of the observed decrease in youth use following retail sale legalization cannot be inferred, because effects might be delayed and this report does not include data from the timeframe that would capture the more recent surge in e-cigarette use by youth and the use of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) within electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) devices. Although the relationship between legal adult recreational use and youth use is not well understood, two possible reasons for the observed decline in youth use include reduction of illicit market supply through competition and loss of novelty appeal among youths,” it stated.
Continuing cannabis research in relation to public health and the community is essential to policy development, debunking misconceptions and creating a better understanding of cannabis overall.